• The best high school receiver in Arizona is headed to Austin, but first he took home some hardware from Josh Rosen after a stellar senior year.
By Laken Litman
December 11, 2018

Jake Smith thought his odds of winning were slim. He knew he was a finalist for the Gatorade National Player of the Year Award, but his parents told him not to get his hopes up.

The Smiths, however, knew their son was going to win the coveted high school award last Saturday and kept it a secret. Then on Tuesday, during a team weight workout at his high school, Smith received an unexpected surprise.

“The football team walked into the weight room and our strength coach said to start clapping because we have a special guest here to show us how to lift or something like that,” Smith says. “We all start clapping as [Arizona Cardinals quarterback] Josh Rosen walks in with the trophy and then it all kind of hit me as he walked in and a bunch of cameras followed him.”

Smith also won the Gatorade Arizona Player of the Year award earlier this month.

Smith, a 6'1", 195-pound wide receiver from Scottsdale (Ariz.) Notre Dame Prep, is a member of the 2019 Texas recruiting class which is currently ranked No. 6 in the country by 247Sports. The four-star wideout is also the No. 2 overall prospect in Arizona, and ranked No. 81 overall nationally. He’s now the third future Longhorn to win the national award in the past decade, joining running back Jonathan Gray (’11) and quarterback Garrett Gilbert (’08).

Other finalists were senior defensive back/wide receiver Derek Stingley Jr. (committed to LSU) and junior quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei (uncommitted, offers include Alabama, USC, Clemson and Oregon).

Texas could benefit from more depth at receiver, especially if Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Collin Johnson decide to forgo their senior seasons and turn pro. He believes he’ll mostly be used in the slot and as a return man. As a senior, he hauled in 64 passes for 1,112 yards and 22 touchdowns and added 741 yards and 15 more scores on the ground while leading the Saints (13–1) to the 5A state championship game (which they lost 60–7).

Smith has experience playing nearly every other position at Notre Dame Prep, too. He returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, made 20 tackles in the secondary—including 4.5 sacks—and he punted. Smith jokes he wasn’t very good, but he can always brag about booting a 65-yarder and converting one fake punt that earned his team a huge first down in the playoffs last November.

Over the span of his high school career, he amassed 5,446 total yards and 72 touchdowns. He also briefly played baseball on the baseball team and won a lacrosse state championship as a junior.

Smith plans to sign with Texas during the early signing period, which begins Dec. 19. He’s anxious to get to Austin and believes the Longhorns, who play Georgia in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, are close to contending for a national championship.

“The 2018 class they brought in was [ranked] third in the country and my class is gong to be right up there again,” Smith says. “With those two classes coming in, I think we’ll be able to compete for a national championship next year or the year after.”

When it came to his recruitment, Smith ultimately chose Texas over USC, despite having no prior rooting interest or affiliation to the Longhorns. He’s not the only recruit from Arizona either, with four-star tight end Brayden Liebrock from Chandler (Ariz.) High School committed to Texas’s 2019 class, too.

Smith has no elaborate celebration plans: He’ll talk to Tom Herman and have dinner with his family.

“Soak it all in,” Smith says.

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